In the two years since Cuban-born Ivan Zamora became a United States citizen, he smuggled women from Cuba, then became their loan shark, pimp, batterer and rapist — crimes so terrible that one woman tried to commit suicide.
Those details are in Zamora’s federal court guilty pleas on Monday to two counts of forced labor trafficking and two counts of encouraging and inducing an alien to reside in the United States. The 47-year-old who had access to several homes around Palm Beach County will find out on Jan. 11 how long he will be going to federal prison.
Zamora will also pay three women a total restitution of of $40,100, the amount he charged and extorted from them.
The admission of facts in Zamora’s guilty plea tells the stories of three desperate women and the man who took advantage of them.
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“GCT” knew Zamora from growing up in the neighborhood where Zamora lived. In February 2016, the 29-year-old woman’s significant other already was in the United States. She took Zamora up on his offer to get her into the same country as her love, albeit illegally.
Over a three-month period, Zamora flew GCT to Guyana; went through Venezuela, Colombia and Panama by bus, boat and car; finally, in July, they flew to Mexico. From there, they put a dry foot onto United States soil.
The trip’s price to GCT was $10,000 — which Zamora said she could work off — and the pain and indignity when Zamora physically beat her.
They bused to West Palm Beach, where GCT and Zamora stayed with a cousin. Zamora bought a car with $2,500 of GCT’s earnings in which he drove her to her job as a stripper five days a week. He took half of each day’s pay (he didn’t work).
“While they lived together, in order to force GCT to pay the entire debt and have GCT remain in fear of him, Zamora choked GCT, spit in her face, threatened to kill her, her family, her son and her father,” Zamora’s admission says. “Zamora made threats when she refused to have sex with him or did not pay him the debt.”
Her significant other, also living in South Florida, came up with $5,000 for part of GCT’s debt. When GCT finished paying Zamora the other $5,000 in August 2016, he said, “With this $10,000, I will bring all the little girls I can from Cuba.”
He showed GCT Facebook photos of two other women.
ILG, 30, knew Zamora both from his time as a security guard in places she lived and from being married to a friend of hers.
Zamora knew ILG, a model, had wanted out of Cuba for a while and asked her via Facebook Messenger why she was still there. He told her he could get her out by plane, but it would cost more than a boat, about $18,000. Then, he raised the cost to $36,000 and “to pay him back, she would have to dance in a club because no other job would make enough money to pay the debt.”
After taking a Zamora-arranged flight to Cancun, Mexico, ILG was met on the jetway by uniformed officers. They weren’t busting her. They were giving her a fake ID.
After smugglers took her to a house for four or five days, ILG was bused in a van with 30 to 40 others to the U.S. border. She crossed the pedestrian bridge into Texas on Sept. 9, 2016. Paroled after claiming asylum, she was driven to West Palm Beach, where she met Zamora. He took her to a Lake Worth house, got her set up, then took her to the same strip club where GCT stripped.
But when ILG didn’t make as much money as Zamora desired, he made her take her clothes off at a second club, in Broward. Zamora took all ILG’s money and relentlessly drove her to work, sick or not. ILG’s stripper coworkers helped reveal Zamora as a bully.
Other strippers told ILG that $36,000 was too onerous, so ILG argued to Zamora she’d repay him $26,000.
“Zamora denied this request and told ILG that he would ‘kill her’ and ‘put her in a bag of acid’ if she did not pay him,” his admission states. “Despite being deathly afraid of Zamora, ILG pretended to stand up to him. Zamora gave in and agreed to lower her debt” to $26,000.
Zamora still threatened her when ILG wouldn’t have sex with him. And she believed his security connections put teeth behind his threats to kill her family in Cuba if she went ghost on him. Also, he still threatened her with a baseball bat after a bad night of earnings, hit her with a fist and pointed a gun at her.
She later found out the gun was fake.
When Zamora said he’d harm ILG’s mother, the woman took out a knife and said she’d preemptively stab him. Zamora decided to stash ILG at a friend’s Miami house. ILG paid Zamora the full $26,000.
ON HER OWN
Zamora then brought in 19-year-old MMR, who thought Zamora was law enforcement. Zamora told her family they were a couple and she’d be able to work and go to school in the United States. MMR decided to get here on her own, but wound up bounced back to Colombia when she crossed into Panama. She enlisted Zamora’s help, which he priced at $13,000.
Once he got her to Boynton Beach, Zamora ballooned the debt to $26,000. MMR felt forced by fear to have sex with Zamora, who didn’t like that MMR’s romantic relationships were only with women.
“On one occasion, Zamora took a gun and put it in MMR’s mouth and said he would kill her and her parents in Cuba if he were not obeyed,” Zamora’s admission said. Before MMR learned the gun was fake, “MMR cut her wrist-veins because she did not want to live anymore. Zamora stopped her and took the razor blade away,” then didn’t take her to a doctor.
Repeating the pattern, Zamora made MMR strip at clubs in Palm Beach and Broward for eight days and took all $1,600 she earned.
“On July 29, 2017, Zamora physically struck MMR and grabbed her neck,” his admission said. “Zamora called her a wretched woman, told her she was ungrateful and that she was a ‘bitch’ because she did not want to be with him. MMR’s mother was listening on the phone though video chat. Zamora told MMR’s mother that he would take revenge on the family, and that he wanted MMR’s head. MMR’s mother had a stroke immediately following the incident.”
Despite all this, MMR didn’t go to the police because of Zamora’s long association with her family and gratitude for his assistance in getting to America. But after an argument July 31, 2017, while on the way to a strip club, MMR bolted from the car and called 911. That put the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office on Zamora’s trail.
Zamora moved to Las Vegas, where efforts by Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office ended in his arrest on Feb. 12.